Fresh Power Pop from I Was a King

I’ve been writing about how much I enjoy the power pop of I Was a King for quite some time; it seems that’s about as long as TFC’s Norman Blake has been a fan, as well. Now, the band has teamed up with Norm (producer) to bring you a powerhouse of an album…and below you can stream the first single. It’s absolutely everything you’d want, with huge churning guitar chords ringing out while the band all share in vocal roles that bring you closer to the warmth of the fire. There’s a lot of power-pop out there, but I feel like no one’s doing it quite on the level as this bunch; if this is the last new song you hear before heading into the weekend, your life will be better for it. Look for Slow Century to drop in March of this year!

The New Mendicants – Into the Lime

Into The Lime Front Cover

Rating: ★★★ · ·

What happens when two incredible songwriters unite to form a “super group” for all ages.  We’ve seen past instances where it definitely hasn’t worked, but others have created mildly pleasing results.  The New Mendicants, made up of Norman Blake and Joe Pernice definitely find themselves on the latter half of that train with Into the Lime.  It’s a great listen, though one that isn’t necessarily going to wow; it’s more of a personal experience for fans of both men.

From the moment you hear the strummed guitar and the angelic voice of Pernice on “Sarasota” you get the feeling that Into the Lime is going to be a rather somber affair.  The mood revolves around the music, primarily, in my ears; it’s gentle and never explosive, though the warmth of Joe’s vocals never hurts a song.  But, they do step it up a notch by plugging in for “A Very Sorry Christmas,” which was the album’s only single.  But, even here, the guitars that could ring out are quieted in the distance, barely making their presence felt.  These tunes, like many of the others, are a sharp contrast to “Shouting Match,” the only song that really kicks things into gear. Perhaps the percussion pushes things along, but I’d like to think that the rocker in both Blake and Pernice shined perfectly at the moment of recording; it’s one of my favorite tracks, if only for the fact that it changes the pace.

It’s strange, however, as my last few listens found me gravitating towards tunes that sound like neither of these musicians left their mark on the track, thus creating something new.  “By the Time it Gets Dark” sounds like a traditional ballad that you’d find in Blake’s homeland, accented perfectly by Pernice backing him up, whilst a light piano twinkles.  It’s a new form, letting the work of both men shine through, but not treading on the same old ground they’ve already walked.  The same could be said for the album’s closer, “Lifelike Hair.”  It’s a fuzzy rocker, though with a more psych-influenced fuzz than the power-pop sort you’d expect Norman to throw in.  There’s definitely a new style for both here, and while I enjoy the song, it does leave a bad taste in my mouth, as it seems out-of-place on this release from The New Mendicants.  Up until now, everything sounded succinct and expected, yet this tune just seems from out of left-field.  Didn’t work for me.

While I enjoy a great deal of the songs that piece together Into the Lime, I’m not going to put them down as the greatest songs the two men involved have ever written.  There good at what they do, and together, they make an enjoyable listen, but there’s some disjointed moments that don’t fit, affecting the whole collection of songs together.  That being said, I’d encourage you to take your own trip with The New Mendicants, as each listener will surely locate their own personal gem within.

 

Introducing The New Mendicants

Say what? You’re throwing two of my favorite songwriters, Joe Pernice and Norman Blake, together? Yeah, I’m totally in.  The two have teamed up to form The New Mendicants, doing some covers of each other’s work, plus a tune from INXS.  At this point, that’s about all there is to offer, though I hope that there’s more to come in the very near future.  The three recorded songs have been filed under the Australia 2013 EP, which you can pick up over HERE.  One can only hope that this INXS cover below is a good sign of wonderful things to come when these two are afforded time to craft a full album together.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/This-Time.mp3]

I Was a King – You Love It Here

Rating: ★★★★½

I’ve long praised the wonderful work of I Was a King, and for a bit I felt like I was the only one that noticed.  It seems that wasn’t true at all (thank goodness) with the band getting a touch of grace on production duties; Norman Blake of Teenage Fanclub and Robyn Hitchcock share duties on You Love It Here.  If that’s not enough to sway you towards the excellent work of this Norwegian trio, then perhaps I can push you just a little further.

Three albums into their career and the group opens You Love It Here with perhaps one of their best songs, “Frozen Disease.”  The guitar has that nostalgic ring to it, distorted yet melodic.  The song itself has a down-trodden temp, but Frode’s voice has this warmth to it that somehow allows the song to avoid any sense of melancholy, even if that’s the intent of the vocals.  Then they move off into their meat-and-potatoes indie pop, blending slightly angular guitar work, emphatic drumming and harmonies that would make your mother swarm.  “Leave” is the sort of song that originally endeared me to the group, and it’s clear that even with great producers on hand, you can’t take away a band’s songwriting sensibilities.

You’ve only got to skip ahead a few tracks to see the progression I Was a King has made in their songwriting; it’s nice to see them holding close to certain aspects, yet still see them pushing forward.  “Hanging On” isn’t filled with distorted guitars, rather it’s filled with vocal harmonies and light instrument strumming.  I particularly love the change in the vocal pitch that comes in right at 1:40 on your player; this is a mood affecting shift that’s been perfected by the likes of Nada Surf.  Another move that was unexpected, yet welcomed, was Anne taking the lead on “Superhero.”  For the majority of the track, there’s a hint of guitar, though it’s been cleared out in the studio to let her vocal shine through, remaining the perfect focus.  It’s striking, not only for the power in Frokedal’s voice, but in its ability to break up some of the album.  While I love power-pop and such, a little differentiation goes a really long way.

As always though, the winner on You Love It Here seems to be the sound of the guitars.  “Food Wheels” enters near the end of the album, and while there’s still that element of swirling guitar, a more rudimentary sound is what struck me most.  The distortion is peeled back, and I dare say that there’s a bit of a jangle to the track.  It’s similar to the earlier appearance of “Eric” on the record, though that track has more of a chugging folk guitar vibe, and a more pronounced rhythm.  All in all, these tiny additional touches demonstrate both exceptional songwriting and the band’s ability to adapt/change.

Sometimes when I listen to a record like You Love It Here, I want to hold it close to my heart/ears.  It’s the perfect pop record that I can play any time of year, and it will always bring a smile to my face.  That’s selfish though; the whole world needs to get a chance to listen to I Was a King.  If you make one decision today, I beg you to make sure that it’s to pick up this delightful record from our friends in Norway; it’s a decision that will improve your life drastically, I swear.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/1-01-Frozen-Disease.mp3]

 

New Gem from I Was A King

One of the band’s I can’t get enough of is I Was A King, a great power-pop act from Norway.  They’re about to release their third album, You Love It Here on October 5th overseas (the band is currently looking for US representation!), and if you don’t love this song, something’s got to be wrong with you.  It’s got an effortless cool to it, with a wonderful central hook and a melody that’s going to have you salivating for more from the group. If you needed further proof that this group was on top of their game, you need look no further than the production credits attributed to Norman Blake and Robyn Hitchcock.  After you stream the song, check out this video that goes along with it HERE. This is going to make your day, I promise.